Missouri State Teachers Association director addresses pandemic challenges, advocates to ‘suspend state academic testing’

Published: Jan. 15, 2022 at 1:30 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 16, 2022 at 2:07 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The Missouri State Teachers Association shared a letter Friday on challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the letter, MSTA Executive Director Bruce Moe reports an “alarming increase” in school staff out due to COVID-19 protocols.

“With an overwhelming number of teachers out, substitutes nearly impossible to find and student attendance numbers dwindling, some schools have had no choice but to close buildings or even the entire district for extended periods. These closures disrupt their communities and create uncertainty that extends into the spring and early summer as districts shuffle calendars to make up the lost days,” said Moe in the letter.

The letter offers several suggestions to combat the problem, including one to “suspend state academic testing’ The recommendations come after a recent discussion with Margie Vandeven, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

According to the letter, the Missouri State Teachers Association advocates for the following recommendations and explanations to navigate through the pandemic:

  • When in-person is no longer viable, districts need to be prepared to close buildings, and perhaps entire districts, until there is enough healthy faculty and staff to provide a worthwhile learning experience.
  • Missouri schools should be allotted additional AMI days to allow them to close when necessary without being penalized.
  • Districts must be given the flexibility to develop and utilize policies that need to be enacted to mitigate disease and maintain safe, in-person learning.
  • Suspend statewide testing. While parents, educators and the community rightfully worry about learning loss, additional testing will not help to alleviate this problem.
  • All available class time must be allocated to student learning.
  • Districts should eliminate additional meetings or professional learning days and instead, give educators back that valuable time so they can focus on their curriculum and their students.

The recommendations come while several school districts around southwest Missouri scramble with staffing shortages and COVID-19 outbreaks. Springfield Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, reported at least 530 new COVID-19 cases this week.

Starting Tuesday, Jan. 18, SPS will return to a masking requirement for staff and visitors but not for students. The requirement will last until at least Feb. 4. District leaders dropped a district-wide mask mandate in late-December after Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt issued a cease and desist letter over masking in the district, though SPS noted Friday that these directives apply to students.

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